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Why Do American Firearms Makers Recommend The Use Of Only SAAMI Approved Ammunition?
If you were to phone any American firearms maker or importer and ask about what types of ammo are suitable for use in their guns, they would tell you to use only SAAMI (Sporting Arms & Ammunition Manufacturers Index) compliant ammunition. Why?
First, it may help to understand why SAAMI operates or even exists. SAAMI standardizes tolerances for both guns and ammunition in America and other countries reference SAAMI these days as well. When a gun manufacturer makes any type of firearm, they can simply look at SAAMI specifications for chamber dimensions and know that if they make their firearms within those specs., that all SAAMI compliant ammo will be safe to fire and should be functional within those tolerances. So SAAMI, for arms and ammo makers, has become the standard maker. This is a great idea on its face, but read on.
As one (Only one) example of the potential problems with SAAMI compliance, let’s take a look at the 45 Colt cartridge (Also known as 45 Long Colt). In the 1870’s, gun makers such as Colt, started to make guns chambered in 45 Colt. Metallurgy and firearms design in those days centered around the use of low pressured black powder ammunition as smokeless powder was still decades from being invented……Because many of those old revolvers are very weak in both design and metallurgy and are still in existence all around the world, SAAMI says that all 45 Colt ammunition should be relegated to the pressures that black powder produces in that cartridge, hence the SAAMI limitation of 14,000 CUP for the 45 Colt ammunition. However, today, most every firearms makers that manufacture revolvers or rifles chambered in 45 Colt, have designed guns with modern metallurgy that will safely withstand far more than double the old SAAMI specified chamber pressures. Ruger was the first maker (in the 1970’s) of large framed 45 Colt revolvers that would easily withstand a steady indefinite ammunition diet of 32,000 CUP. When compared to the SAAMI standard of 14,000 CUP, 32,000 CUP ammo is truly high performance and is capable of killing animals upwards of 2,000 lbs., such as buffalo. In the 80’s and 90’s, the major loading manuals such as those published by Speer, Sierra, Hodgdon, etc., started to publish reloading data for different pressure levels of 45 Colt ammunition, depending the gun you intended to use. Stronger guns such as the Marlin 1894, Winchester 1894, Ruger Blackhawk, etc., (please read my essay on “Ruger Revolvers And 45 Colt+P Ammunition”) could all withstand the more powerful 45 Colt ammo loaded to 32,000 CUP. Then along came the forward looking ammo companies such as Cor Bon or Buffalo Bore that started making 45 Colt ammo loaded to 32,000 CUP, just for use in those modern stronger firearms that can safely facilitate such ammunition. But (there has to be a but) SAAMI still will not recognize that the 45 Colt cartridge can be loaded to any pressure level above 14,000 CUP!!!!
Everything in that above paragraph that is stated about 45 Colt ammunition, could also be said of modern 45-70, 38-55, etc. ammunition, and many other cartridges as well.
To further understand the dynamics of manufacturing or selling ANYTHING in America; America happens to have become a nation where folks refuse to take any responsibility for their choices/actions and will sue over almost anything. It seems that almost everybody wants to blame somebody else for their ignorance or mistakes. This puts manufacturers of anything in a very difficult position. So, when Joe Customer calls a gun manufacturer and asks about what types of ammunition is safe to use in their particular make and model (insert any) of gun, to limit their liability, they will say to use only SAAMI compliant ammunition………….this is the stance manufacturers have to take in today’s lawsuit happy environment. However, the gun they are being asked about may have been designed to withstand ammunition pressures that far exceed the old SAAMI standards for firearms designed around using low pressure black powder. This is very confusing to customers who do not understand the dynamics of manufacturing in America or the history of firearms or ammunition development. Most shooters simply want to shoot and enjoy their sport, so all of this is very confusing to them.
Another side-effect of our litigious society is almost all major ammo makers “down load” or “water down” ammo to fall far below SAAMI pressure specs………..so the end using customer gets very weak ammo that cannot cause a problem in any gun, even if the barrel is full of rain water or if any other number of user errors exist…….nobody wants to be sued! Welcome to today’s attorney driven America where products are designed around liability concerns…….other concerns such as performance and even quality, take a back seat to liability concerns and the customer is the one who gets weak or inferior products as a result. This is not how America became the world’s leader in industry, but this is the situation America labors under today.